World’s first ‘boomerang meteorite’ discovered in Sahara Desert: Rock that left Earth and spent millennia in space has now returned
Astronomers announced the discovery of the first-ever ‘boomerang meteorite’ – a rock that originated from Earth, was ejected into space and later returned.
The meteorite, NWA 13188, was uncovered in the Sahara Desert, and scientists at Aix-Marseille University in France conducted a new analysis, finding it has characteristics of our planet.
The object has composition found in Earth’s crust and volcanic rock, but also elements that only appear when exposed to energetic cosmic rays in space.
Researchers believe the rock was propelled into space by an asteroid impact around 10,000 years ago.
The meteorite, NWA 13188, was uncovered in the Sahara Desert. Scientists believe it was propelled off Earth during an asteroid impact 10,000 years ago and returned to our planet
Meteorite hunters uncovered the rock in question in 2018 in Morocco, which led scientists to name it Northwest Africa (NWA).
The analysis, led by Jérôme Gattacceca, determined the rock has an ‘overall basaltic andesite composition’ found in volcanic rock across the globe.
It is also dominated by plagioclase, an aluminum-bearing mineral and pyroxene, a dark-colored for-forming mineral, which scientists said has raised the debate that the ‘space rock’ is not a meteorite at all.
However, some elements have been altered into light forms, which is only possible if the rock interacts with cosmic rays in space.
One clue the rock ventured back to Earth from space is the measured concentrations of these altered elements, known as isotopes, are too high to be accounted for by Earth-bound processes.
Researchers also identified a fusion crust coating on the rock, which forms when meteorites soar through Earth’s atmosphere and travel to the ground
Gattacceca and his team found detectable isotopic imprints like beryllium-3, helium-10 and neon-21 in NWA 13188, Space.com reports.
Researchers also identified a fusion crust coating on the rock, which forms when meteorites soar through Earth’s atmosphere and travel to the ground.
‘Therefore, we consider NWA 13188 to be a meteorite, launched from the Earth and later re-accreted to its surface,’ Gattacceca shared in a statement.
‘This scenario matches the latest definition of meteorites: ‘Material launched from a celestial body that achieves an independent orbit around the Sun or some other celestial body, and which eventually is re-accreted by the original body, should be considered a meteorite.
”The difficulty, of course, would be in proving that this had happened, but a terrestrial rock exposed to cosmic rays and with a well-developed fusion crust should be considered a possible terrestrial meteorite.”